In the darkness, I heard a cry. 
In my animal brain it registered as a most desperate,  sorrowful sound, 
though its timbre was not one I immediately recognized. Taking a sip of 
my Dunkin Donuts coffee out of a styrofoam cup, my ears feel plastered
to the sound in the distance, brain running through calculations, trying to
discern the source. There was something familiar yet eerie about the sound.
The coffee feels too hot, too stimulating in the presence of this new input.

There  are more cries. A chorus now. 

As my mind opens, I realize it is the sound of animals, here in town. What 
kind of animal? Suddenly I realize I am listening to cows. Cows in the city? 
What are they doing here? It is cows alright - but not the kind of sound I am 
used to hearing from them. 

Sometimes I can hear the emotions in a person's voice, the words in an 
animal's noises, the thoughts in their eyes. Most of the time, this is a blessing. 
On a night like this, it is hell on earth. 

At first I hope that maybe there is a farm somewhere and that the cows are just      
mooing at a passing pedestrian, or that a cow is giving birth. But I know deep 
down what I will find. I force myself to follow the sound. I will not permit myself 
to run from this Truth. 

I find what I expected to find. A lone truck, parked under a lonely parking lot 
security light. In the back, fuzzy black ears, pink noses, shiny black eyes. Their faces 
move toward me, the crying is intense. I open my mind. ""  While 
animals do not speak English, there is no mistaking the message. As  an added cruelty, 
the place the driver decided to have his midnight snack was Burger King. 

I force myself to face them for awhile. I force myself to realize where they are going 
and  the fact that I can tell that every one of them know it. I want to scream, to cry, to 
hide from the sweet, black shining eyes who never did anything but want to be 
born, walk on green grass, mate, feel the wind against their bovine skin. We view 
that fate as somehow so much less than our own. They only want to be what 
they were born to be. We alter that fate every single day. 

I let them know in my spirit that I was thinking of them as I drove away. Their 
cries seemed to reach out to me as my form grew smaller and smaller, 
a last hope shattered in their collective mind. For I am sure that tonight I was the 
only living creature that showed them any conscious thought, let alone pity.       

As I drifted off to sleep, I imagined that they were going to a better place, a big farm 
in the middle of the land with plenty of green hills, blue sky, big puffy white clouds, 
with nothing to do but just exist and feel happy to be alive. 

But I know full well during the night  while I was asleep, these creatures were 
paraded harshly into a cold torture chamber, a long production line where they
get to watch in terror every friend get brutally murdered, screaming, one 
after one after one until it came to them, their fields of green drowned out in the 
warm red blood of  a cold kill, unceremonious, no thought or apology given to 
their living form, only seen for the use we have for them, and that is all. 

You  would think something like this would make me turn into a vegetarian. 
But I know myself far too well. For I am a hypocrite. 

A few days from now, all this will be forgotten. I will look at a menu. I will      
decide that a cheeseburger would just hit the spot. And somewhere, mid-bite,      
I will see the black, shining eyes staring out from the back of the truck. I will 
start to put my sandwich down - and then the aroma and the hunger will seduce 
me, the way it always does, and I will slowly put the sandwich back to my lips. 
And I will push the cries, the shining eyes, the pleas out of my mind, while I take 
bite after bite after steaming bite. 

Some say Money is the root of all Evil. But I hold that it is Hunger. 

NEL   6/21/06